Imagine yourself in a rather large and almost empty room with an iron bed in the corner. Autumn. Cold. Gloomy. It has been raining for days and the roof is leaking. In the opposite corner on the ceiling the wet spot is slowly spreading; the rain drops are falling into the bucket on the floor. You cannot complain to a landlord – last month’s rent has not been been paid. All that’s left is to watch strange patterns forming on the ceiling. And if you look closely, you can see remarkable things – traceries made of beautiful, and quite bright color rings – green-blue (vitriol?), brown (metal roof rust?), pink (old paint?). The bands of different coloring are sharply separated from each other and form intricate figures. Nowadays it is hard to see something like this. New technologies – concrete blocks, leak-proof roofs, synthetic materials, and no chalk-based plaster and vitriol. But in the past… Who was first to observe such “chromatograms”?

Leaking RoofIn the 19th century, the understanding of plant’s green color gave scientists an extraordinary intellectual satisfaction. It turned out that the plants absorb the sunlight and then use its energy for synthesis of nutrients! It was necessary to separate and purify the pigments of a green leaf – chlorophylls, but they are so close in their properties that nobody was able to do it.

Mikhail Tsvet was trying to solve the separation problem of green leaf pigments.